The Ultimate Guide about Colors and How to Use Them
Are you curious about the color wheel? Do you want to learn more about how colors work together? In this tutorial, you will learn the basics of the color wheel and get to know how to create beautiful color combinations for your drawings and painting. So whether you’re a beginner artist or just looking for some inspiration, keep reading!
Since ancient times, artists and art theorists have tried to develop color theories and color doctrines in order to create a system with rules for the application of colors. However, opinions are divided on the topic of how important it really is to follow these rules when creating art. Even without the color wheel, you can create great paintings, but it can be a helpful tool nevertheless.
There is no such thing as the one color wheel. Throughout history, different color wheels have been developed with different emphases. Before we take a look at the different color wheels, we should get familiar with the three color groups:
The color wheel is not a necessary tool for creative work, but it can help to come up with interesting color palettes that are both harmonious and striking.
Moses Harris’ color wheel was designed in 1766 and emphasizes the function of the primary colors from which mixed colors are created.
In the center of the wheel, Harris documented his observation that mixing the three primary colors produces black. Today, this is known as subtractive color.
The color wheel by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a visualization from his book Theory of Colours (Original Title in German: Zur Farbenlehre), shows both the primary colors and the secondary colors. Here, the complementary colors are opposite each other.
Goethe divided his color wheel into two rings: The inner ring describes human characteristics, and the outer ring the human mind and soul.
Outer ring: reason (red, orange), intellect (yellow, green), sensuality (green, blue), fantasy (purple, red).
Inner ring: beautiful (red), noble (orange), good (yellow), useful (green), mean (blue), unnecessary (purple).
Philipp Otto Runge, one of the most important German painters of the early Romantic period, developed a color sphere in 1810. On the sphere, the three primary colors red, yellow, and blue are equally spaced along the lines of longitude. Between every two primary colors, also along the lines of longitude, are three of their mixed colors. The two poles of the color sphere are white and black.
In this way, Runge was able to visualize not only the mixing ratio of the colors among themselves but also harmonies in terms of brightness and darkness.
Johannes Itten’s Color Wheel is probably the best known among the color wheels. It consists of only 12 colors, three primary colors, three secondary colors, and six tertiary colors. The tertiary colors are located between a primary and a secondary color. In the center of the circle is a representation that illustrates the relationship between the primary and secondary colors.
Itten’s color wheel contains only purely chromatic colors and is criticized for being too simplified. However, this characteristic makes it a particularly good tool for beginners or simple projects.
Contrasts of color form the basis for our perception of color and can start from the amounts of color, the hues of color, the intensity of color, the relationships of color to each other, and the application of color. Itten distinguished between the following contrasts of color:
Experienced artists always work with one or more contrasts, but even amateur artists may already unconsciously use them in some of their artwork. The conscious use of different contrasts can help to better capture the moods of paintings.
Colors can be categorized into four different functions:
After sketching, an artist may have already made a decision about the color concept and a color palette. There are three concepts of colors:
Our perception and the effect of color on us are influenced by the interaction of color and light directly in the artwork. Depending on the lighting, objects, people and landscapes change their colors.
The artist decides on the location of the light source and can choose between natural light (sun or moon) and artificial light (lamp, candle, fire, etc.). The light source can be either inside the space of the artwork or outside.
The interplay of light and shadow can create interesting relations between light and dark. The artist can bring illuminated areas in the painting to the forefront of our perception and equally make other areas disappear into the darkness.
Nowadays, there are countless variations of the color wheel. Some emphasize the psychological effects of color, while others focus on the practical applications for artists and designers.
The most important thing to remember is that a color wheel is a tool, and there are no hard and fast rules about how to use it. Ultimately, it’s up to you to experiment with colors and find what works best for your artwork.
If you’re looking for a helpful online resource for finding harmonizing colors, I recommend checking out the Color Wheel Tool from Adobe. This tool allows you to input colors and shows you a range of harmonizing color combinations that can be used in your artwork. It’s a great way to experiment with different color combinations and find what works best for you.